1. cover (a surface) with streaks.
"Tears streaked down Wilmer's face"
The Mets have played one month of baseball since Wilmer Flores famously cried on the Citi Field infield after learning that he had apparently been traded to the Brewers in a deal that was never completed. Aside from endearing himself to fans and inspiring roughly twenty-thousand uniquely hilarious people to tweet that there is, in fact, crying in baseball, Flores has also done something even more surprising: he's been really, really good at playing baseball.
In the 25 games since Flores wore his figurative heart on his sleeve, the 24-year-old has hit .311/.340/.533 with eight doubles, four home runs, three walks, and 11 strikeouts in 94 plate appearances. This brilliant 25-game stretch has raised Flores's wOBA to .305 and his wRC+ to 96, both of which are fourth-best among qualified NL shortstops. Offensively, Flores now ranks behind only Jung Ho Kang, Brandon Crawford, and Jhonny Peralta among senior circuit shortstops.
So, are these numbers for real? Well, they are real in that they really happened and are now a part of our recorded history. But are Flores's recent improvements a legitimate indicator of his future production? That is a better question.
The easy answer is that 25 games are never enough to make any kind of insightful conclusion. But that's no fun.
Going by the eye test, Flores gets a passing grade; he just looks more like the Wilmer Flores who was a top prospect than the Wilmer Flores who had not hit a home run since June 12. As Jeffrey Paternostro recently pointed out, Flores has done a much better job with his weight transfer, which has helped with his timing and his ability to drive the ball. He's gotten back to pulling the low-inside pitch for home runs without being completely defenseless against pitches on the outside part of the plate.
Flores's .320 BABIP over that 25-game span is .050 higher than his career mark, but it would not be surprising to see him settle in at a midway point between those two numbers. During August, Flores pulled 54.7% of his batted balls, a figure that is up 14.1% from his 2015 average. His percentage of hard-hit balls were up only 2% over his 2015 averages, but he was able to cut down on soft-hit balls by 5%. If these adjustments hold, Flores certainly wouldn't be the first player to have figured out the difficult art of hitting major league pitching after many people had already written him off.
The obvious caveat here is that everyone goes through hot streaks. For evidence of that point, consider that the entire Mets roster put up an OPS of .816 and an OPS+ of 120 during the month of August. The fact that this recent stretch came against some shoddy pitching in great hitting environments should not be overlooked, either. Flores has also seen a slight decrease in his already abysmal walk rate over that span, which is disappointing if not surprising.
No one should make too big a deal about 25 games worth of stats, but it's hard not to make at least a small deal about the way Flores has been hitting. Even if this year's cumulative numbers are the best it gets for Flores, he should still be able to stick around as a valuable bench piece who can play all four infield positions—with varying degrees of proficiency—while mashing against lefties; his 2015 OPS versus southpaws is a cool .901. If Flores can continue to build on these improvements, it's not out of the question that this former top-50 prospect can grow into a player who wouldn't look out of place hitting fifth or sixth and manning the hot corner. At the very least, Wilmer Flores has been a key piece of one of the most exciting seasons in franchise history.